Robert Rewey, a former Ford Motor Co. sales and marketing chief who helped make SUVs and other trucks popular by giving them carlike features and promoted leasing as an alternative to traditional financing, died Nov. 29 at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., after a brief illness.
He was 76.
Rewey, who joined Ford in 1963 as a statistical analyst, retired from Ford in 2001 after a 38-year career that included a variety of high-level positions, including general manager of the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury divisions. He was on the boards of Sonic Automotive, LoJack Corp. and Speedway MotorSports at the time of his death.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford praised Rewey as "a great marketing visionary."
Rewey often described his primary responsibility as "moving the iron," which he did with great success. He also leaves a legacy in the employees he hired and promoted.
Rewey's family said he watched proudly as Mark Fields, whom Rewey recruited to Ford and signed off on hiring in 1989, rapidly climbed the company's ranks to become CEO in July.
A Ford profile of Rewey from 1997 described him as "more social scientist than salesman, more engineer than ad man, and more master strategist than master of ceremonies."
In the 1980s, Rewey introduced "Red Carpet Leasing" to put customers in a new model every 24 months.
He is credited with helping to reverse a plan to convert the Ford Mustang to front-wheel drive, making him a hero among Ford dealers and Mustang enthusiasts. But he rankled many dealers when the company tried to consolidate stores in metropolitan areas through joint ventures with Ford as an investor.
"Bob was just a really fantastic individual that over his career and life affected so many people," Sonic Automotive President Scott Smith said. "He had a wealth of knowledge that made our company so much stronger. It's a tremendous loss for us."
His family is planning a public memorial service in January.